The flickering strobe lights from the ambulance that turned onto the front of Andrew Tanner’s house gave out their shrill warning in the middle of the night. An accident had occurred. Andrew’s close friend Scott Peters had tried to kill himself in Andrew’s room in a last attempt to frame Andrew for the accident that occurred one year ago last summer, the death of Ryan Lennyson.
Andrew Tanner stood by the front door, gazing out into the black night. The wailing has ceased and yet he stood there staring at the distant pale, white moon. Every couple of seconds the white strobe of light would pierce an echoing shadow of the darkness that engulfed the house and the ambulance in a pale black. He stared down at his arm, the red print of Scott’s grip still flashed on his pale skin. The grip was strong and forceful to the point that Andrew’s skin could have easily slipped off like fresh cut meat. He turned around to find the gurney wheeling his limp friend to the vehicle and was unable to duck out of the way of the narrow platform that held Scott’s body.
“Son, we have to get him to a hospital, he needs to have his stomach pumped,” the EMT said.
“I want to come with you,” said Andrew. The soft brown eyes showed the little boy he used to be, innocent and chaste. Now Andrew’s soft brown eyes were those of a young lover seeking comfort, and a friend wanting to seek forgiveness.
“Andrew, you’re not going to the hospital with this boy,” his mother said, “He tried to kill you tonight.”
Andrew’s mother had stark features that glared like a face over a flashlight. Her hair was piled on top of her head, little blond tufts of feathered hair reaching its way out of the ponytail she managed to snag while waiting for the ambulance. The pink robe she wore was shaggy and worn like an old blanket.
“I’m going mom,” Andrew said, “Don’t try to stop me.” He jumped inside the vehicle and looked at his mother through the soft clear glass. Her hands were placed at her sides, balled into little white lumps. Andrew turned his attention to his friend, grabbing a hold of Scott by the hand and feeling the Earth shake and tremble at a speedy pace.
The EMT’s were busy with their IV’s and oxygen masks, trying to stabilize the poor boy. Andrew reached inside his pant pocket and touched the bottle of drugs that were thrown near the bedroom door. While Scott was lying on Andrew’s bed after his parents called 911, Andrew ducked and snatched up the drugs before anyone else found the bottle. His parents called in Scott’s emergency as a seizure, but they didn’t know that their own son was hiding the evidence.
“Do you know what kind of drugs he took?” the EMT said. He was busy trying to make Scott comfortable when Andrew came back to reality. He stared at Scott’s heartrate on the monitor and heard the ragged breathing. Andrew touched the bottle one more time before slipping it out of his pocket.
“I think it was something laced with meth,” said Andrew. He reached over to Scott on the gurney and squeezed Scott’s hand.
“Are you sure it was meth?” said the EMT. Andrew nodded gave the bottle of drugs to the EMT.
“I think these were what he took,” said Andy.
The EMT looked over the bottle, there was no label and no identification of what the drug was. But Andy knew it was the same drug that killed Ryan that summer before, a drug laced with methamphetamine, ketamine, and MDMA, also known as Sleeping Beauty. The EMT shook his head and then radioed into a nearby hospital asking for clearance and immediate care. The ambulance turned right and left and swerved itself to the emergency entrance of the newly built hospital off the acceleration lane of Interstate 75. The EMT’s threw the gurney out onto the ground and raced towards the ER. A nurse escorted Andy to the waiting room.
It was about fifteen minutes later when the police arrived to take a full statement of the accident. The small sound of radio chatter could be heard all the way down the hall when the nurse led the two police officers to Andy. The two men were contrast in height and girth of their bellies. The small police officer was white with a shaved head; however his beard showed that he had red hair. The other man was skinny and had a slight tan to his skin; his hair was black and feathery. Their name tags said Laprezi and Stevenson, respectfully.
“Officers, this is the young boy that came in with his friend who tried to overdose on these pills laced with meth,” the nurse said. She gave the bottle to Officer Laprezi and patted Andrew’s shoulder, reassuring him that nothing would happen.
“You are Andrew Tanner, correct?” Officer Stevenson said. Andrew nodded and swallowed his guilt before he continued answering the police. Officer Laprezi held up the bottle, inspecting the drug, trying to identify the mix on the spot. He then handed it to Officer Stevenson who radioed in the description. The bottle flashed a warning sign for Andrew that he might be in trouble.
“Have you seen these pills before the incident,” Officer Laprezi said.
“No, sir,” Andrew said.
“Do you know what these pills were laced with?”
“No, sir.” Andrew gritted his teeth behind his lips. He didn’t like to lie to the police, let alone lie during an investigation.
“Do you know why Mr. Peters broke into your room with this bottle?”
“Can you explain the events that happened leading to Scott being put in this hospital?”
It was dark and luminous. Suddenly, there was a rumble outside his window. Scott was leaning awkwardly against the screen that when Andrew opened the window, the cold rush of wind thrust Scott into his bedroom. He was cold and clammy. The sweat that appeared on Scott’s face turned into raging rivers of water.
“Scott, what’s wrong with you man?” Andrew said. He helped his friend sit against the metal bars of the bed. Scott was wavering in and out of consciousness.
“Nothing is wrong with me Andy,” Scott said, “I feel great.” The wheezing and huffing of his breathing was leaving cold chills on Andrew’s arms. The pill bottle then leapt out of Scott’s pocket. The odor from Scott’s mouth smelled burnt and sour.
“What did you take and how much?” Andrew said.
“Just a couple of pills and some alcohol, nothing too serious,” Scott said.
“Scott, we need to get you to a hospital. You OD’d on drugs do you know what that can do?”
“I won’t need a hospital when I can’t breathe anymore,” Scott said. Andrew tried to help Scott to the bathroom when he tumbled down and banged his head on the desk leg. The loud thud caused the lights to turn on in the hallway. The bottle of pills slid their way to the door when Scott lost his footing. Andy hid the bottle in his pocket as he raced to snatch them from in front of the bedroom door. He heard his parents hurry down the hall; Andrew’s mother opened the door and shrieked. Andy’s father wasn’t far behind.
“I’m calling for an ambulance and the police,” Andy’s father said. He dashed for the telephone in the kitchen and punched the numbers with his fat fingers. His father yelled for his wife to come talk to the responder on the phone. Andy’s mother walked towards the phone, clutching her mouth with her hand. The EMTs were rotating Scott’s body from his position on the floor; he was still feverish and quivering with shakes.
“Did you know that Scott was suicidal?” Officer Laprezi said.
“No, Sir,” Andrew said.
“Did you know that Scott had a drug problem or possible drug abuse?”
“No, sir.” Andrew bit his tongue again after he lied for the second time. He knew Scott was a junkie, he also knew that Scott was Ryan’s stalker.
“Right, Andy, would you mind telling me what led to this suicide attempt?”
“I don’t know.” Officer Laprezi scribbled down the reply and any notes he had about Andy’s attitude and body language. Andy himself didn’t know which one came first. He rubbed his hands together and then rubbed them on his jeans.
“It seems that the Peters family moved here last year,” Officer Stevenson said after hearing radio chatter coming from his talkie, “Can you tell me about Scott and his adjustment to this area?”
Scott and his mother were not part of the neighborhood when Andy moved in. Andy was living in the neighborhood since he was thirteen, after they saved up enough money for one year’s worth of rent. Scott and his mother arrived much later in the school year when she took up the job as a counselor for the education board.
“I see. Are you by any chance familiar with the Lennyson boy that died last summer?” Officer Stevenson said.
“Yes, sir, Ryan and I were friends,” Andy said.
“Was Scott your friend?”
“Yes, sir.” The third lie made Andy’s pulse quicken. He rubbed his hands faster. Officer Laprezi made a note of that movement and then placed the notebook in his front pocket of his uniform. The pen clicked and was hidden away in the right pocket of his pants.
“Andy, Ryan died from a drug overdose on the illegal drug, Sleeping Beauty. Do you know what that is?”
“No, sir.” He fiddled with his fingers and then ran his hands through his hair. Andy was trying to keep cool.
“Sleeping Beauty is a cocktail of MDMA, meth, and ketamine. Ryan was given five times the amount,” Officer Stevenson said, “Now that being said, these pills right here could contain Sleeping Beauty and if they do, your friend must have taken about seven of these beauties because there’s only three left.”
“Andy, are you lying to us?” Officer Laprezi said.
“No, sir,” Andy said.
“Andy, what really did happen? You’re holding something back from us and we need you tell us the truth.”
Andy broke down in tears; he was tired of all this pain, tired of lying and tired of hiding the truth. He wanted Scott to get help or at least pay for what he did.
“Scott was the one who killed Ryan last summer,” Andy said, “He was going to try and frame me for his death and Ryan’s.” He grasped his head in agony. The truth began to unfurl like a sail, taking Andy into complete and utter helplessness.
“Andy, are you saying you were at the party last year the night Ryan died?” Officer Stevenson said.
“Yes, sir.” Officer Stevenson motioned for Andy to join him on the couch. He told Officer Laprezi to get Andy some coffee and maybe something to nibble on from the cafeteria.
“Andy, can you tell me what happened that night?” Through an ugly mess of snot and tears, Andy nodded his head. He took a gulp of air and then wiped his face with his arm.
Ryan and Andy were hosting a coming out party. Scott was not invited to the party after the incident that occurred two weeks before. Andy snuck out the house that night to go to Ryan’s as the guest of honor.
“So you mean to tell me that Scott crashed the party that night?” Officer Stevenson said. Andy nodded his head and continued to wipe his face with his sleeve. Officer Stevenson called for a nurse to go grab some tissues. The nurse came back with a full box one minute later. Andy took the tissues and then proceeded to blow his nose.
“Why was Scott not invited into the party? I thought he was your friend?” Officer Stevenson said.
“He was more of Ryan’s stalker,” Andy said, “He was never our friend.” He let out a loud sniffle and then balled up the snot-filled tissues in his left hand.
“What did Scott try to do to Ryan two weeks before the party?”
“Scott tried to rape Ryan at school in the boy’s bathroom I stopped it by beating up Scott before he could do anything.”
“You beat up Scott Peters before he could rape Ryan?”
“Yes, sir, I did.”
“Did the rape or other similar attacks occur after that incident?”
“No, sir, nothing happened after the incident in the bathroom.”
“So what did the school do to you and Scott after the incident?”
“We both got kicked from graduation ceremony.”
“You were planning on walking your graduation ceremony?”
“Yes, sir, both Ryan and I wanted to walk together for graduation.”
“What about Scott? Was he going to graduate?”
“Yes, sir, he planned on graduating that year.”
“Were you still allowed to go to the events following graduation?”
“No, sir, I was home for those events and so was Scott.”
“When was the party going to take place?”
“The party was going to take place the night after the senior send-off.”
“So then what happened at the party after you got there?”
Andy noticed Ryan when he arrived at the Lennyson’s house and the two headed out to the backyard, towards the gazeebo at the edge of the property. They were setting up the microphone and the speakers outside for the big announcement. Ryan and Andy were going to announce to their guests that they are officially a couple before the party ended. Officer Stevenson sighed and then rubbed his head rapidly. He looked at Andy and then back down the hall for Officer Laprezi with the coffee and some food.
“So you and Ryan were lovers?” Officer Stevenson said, “Did your parents know at the time?”
“We were going to tell them at the same time,” Andy said, “The day after the party happened. They did not know we were in a relationship.”
“How long were you two romantically involved with each other?”
“We were seeing each other for about two years. We planned on going to the same college together. I got a scholarship to pay my tuition and then I was going to get a job to help out with the rest.”
“What happened after you and Ryan wanted to tell everyone that you are a romantic couple?”
Ryan and Andy were setting up the equipment until Scott walked into the gazebo and threw his drink in Ryan’s face. Ryan was angry that Scott came to the party and kept telling him to leave or that Ryan would call the cops. Scott didn’t seem to budge at the threat. He punched Ryan in the face. The blood from Ryan’s nose dripped onto his shirt.
“Scott was there? He was at the party?” Officer Stevenson said.
“Yes, sir, he came to the party,” Andy said.
“He knew you guys were out there?”
“Someone must have told him inside that we were in the gazebo.”
“So we walked out there and then punched Ryan after he saw you two together?”
“Yes, sir, he came up and punched Ryan in the face.”
“You’re saying that Scott was angry at Ryan?”
“Do you think he was jealous?” Andy shook his head no and then rubbed his palms onto his jeans. Officer Laprezi came back an hour later and gave Andy some coffee and a cheese Danish.
“Here you go, Andy,” Officer Laprezi said.
“Thank you,” Andy said. He held his grip firmly on the coffee cup and placed the Danish on the side of his left leg. Andy took a sip of the coffee; it was black and bitter, like the taste of guilt in his mouth. Officer Laprezi stood next to his partner who looked up at him and rolled his eyes. Officer Laprezi looked at Andy and then back at his partner.
“Andy here was just telling me his side of the night Ryan Lennyson died,” Officer Stevenson said.
“You mean to say that Andy was a witness to the death of Ryan Lennyson?” Officer Laprezi said. Officer Stevenson nodded and then looked into Andy’s eyes very serious and drawn sharp to a point.
“How did Andy know about Ryan’s death? Has he told you something we don’t know?” Officer Stevenson chuckled under his breath and then patted Andy’s shoulder. He turned to Officer Laprezi and then nodded with big enthusiasm. Andy swallowed his guilt and took another sip of the black coffee. He shook his head in disgust as he burnt the tip of his tongue.
“Get this, Andy and Ryan were lovers,” Officer Stevenson said.
“Jesus,” Officer Laprezi said. Then he made a swift notion of the cross to seek forgiveness in using Jesus’ name in vain. Andy wanted to laugh, but tonight he was the suspect and not the victim so he kept his laughter to himself. Officer Laprezi stared at Andy in shock. He pulled out his notepad and started to write down the new information.
“This is a big break in the Lennyson case,” Officer Laprezi said.
“Let Andy finish with his story before you interrogate him,” Officer Stevenson said, “He’s been through a lot these past few weeks and I’m sure he needs to let it out.”
Officer Laprezi closed his notebook and then went back to muttering the names of Saints under his breath. He tapped his notebook to remember but then stopped when Officer Laprezi turned around and made a serious face at his partner.
“So after Scott threw his drink, what happened?” Officer Stevenson said.
“Ryan went inside,” Andy said.
Ryan looked back and Andy and made a soft notion with his hands, telling him that everything was alright. Ryan walked back inside the house to get a new shirt and told Andy to wait in the gazebo because it wouldn’t take long. Andy leaned over the railing and then stared up into the starry night as he waited for Ryan to return.
“How long did you wait for Ryan?” Officer Stevenson said.
“I waited an hour for him to come back,” Andy said.
“Did Ryan ever come back out?”
“So did you go inside and see if he was okay?”
“When did you go back inside?”
“I waited an extra five minutes before I went back in.”
Andy remembers that the weather started to get colder. The wind picked up and Andy was shivering cold. He forgot his jacket and was wearing a shirt. He checked his watch before he headed back inside to find Ryan.
“What did the time on your watch say?” Officer Stevenson said.
“It was five minutes after eleven,” Andy said.
“So after you checked your watch you went back inside?”
When Andy headed back inside he asked the guests if they saw Ryan head upstairs. But everyone was so intoxicated that they could call over their friend Brian or Ryan, but it wasn’t Andy’s Ryan. So Andy walked to the back of the house and saw Ryan’s door open at the end of the hallway.
“Did you enter Ryan’s bedroom?” Officer Laprezi said.
“Yes, sir,” Andy said.
“Did you see Scott in the bedroom with Ryan?”
“No, sir, he must have left before I came inside.”
“Did you see Scott at all when you went inside the house before you checked Ryan’s bedroom?”
“No, sir, I didn’t see him. He must have snuck out the window.”
“He went out the window?”
“Yeah, I noticed it was open when I walked inside.”
“Did you close the window?”
“So then what happened after you saw the window?”
Andy opened the door to Ryan’s room. The walls were covered in rock and metal bands. A shelf containing Ryan’s katana collection stood shiny and glistening in the small dim light near Ryan’s bed. Nothing seemed out of place, except the window was opened. Andy poked his head outside the window and looked around. He placed his hands on the window sill and then stuck his head back inside. When Andy turned around to Ryan’s bed, there was Ryan still in his pants with one shirt hanging from his hand.
“You found Ryan lying on his bed?” Officer Stevenson said.
“Yes, sir, I went over and touched his arm,” Andy said, “He felt so cold to the touch.”
“Did you think he was dead?”
“I tried to wake him first, but when he didn’t blink his eyes, I knew he was dead.”
“That fits with what the corner said at the crime scene,” Officer Laprezi said, “Someone must have opened the window as the wind picked up when they filled Ryan’s mouth full of Sleeping Beauty.”
“Did you notice anything in his mouth?” Officer Steven said. He looked at Andy as he placed the coffee to his lips and then put the cup back down.
“I didn’t get a good look. I just know he was cold as ice,” Andy said. He started to cry again. The tears rolled down his cheeks as if they were peeling away layers of his skin to reveal the small frame underneath. Officer Stevenson patted Andy’s shoulder again and then grabbed the cup from Andy’s hand. He placed it on the coffee table and grabbed some tissues for Andy to wipe his nose.
“Did you call 911 after finding the body?” Officer Stevenson said.
“No, sir, I ran out of his house and headed back home.”
“Ryan’s mother found him dead the next morning,” Officer Laprezi said, “Andy’s story seems to fit with the witness testimony of that night.” He reached out and patted Andy’s knee. Andy kept crying and blowing his nose. His last memory of his boyfriend was lying there on the bed staring at the ceiling. It made Andy so angry that he couldn’t save Ryan, let alone tie Scott to Ryan’s death.
Suddenly there was a loud buzzing sound filling the entire hallway. Andy looked up and saw two nurses and one doctor run down the hall. They headed towards the recovery room after Scott was taken to have his stomach pumped. The nurse who took Andy to the officers grabbed the two men.
“What’s happening?” Officer Laprezi said.
“It’s a Code Blue,” the nurse said, “Mr. Peters is having respiratory distress and seizing.”
“Can someone tell me what’s going on?” Andy said.
“You two go talk to the doctor and I will stay with Andy,” the nurse said. She sat down beside him and gave him a big hug. She rubbed the side of his right arm and then patted his knee.
“Is Scott okay?” Andy said.
“He’s going to be fine. He is just in a lot of pain right now,” the nurse said.
“Do you think I can come by and see him sometime?”
“I’m sure he would like that.” Andy wiped his face with his sleeve and then let out a loud sniffle. He waited out the lout noise until it stopped five minutes later. Andy waited in the silence after the ringing has ceased. A white lab coat was walking with the officers to where Andy was sitting. He held a clip board as he stood in front of Andy.
“Nurse, Mrs. Peters may need to know about her son,” the doctor said.
“Yes, sir, right away,” the nurse replied. She looked back at Andy and then patted his shoulder with a soft touch. Andy looked up at her and then at the doctor.
“Is Scot going to be okay?” Andy said. The doctor pushed his clipboard to the right side of his body. He let out a long sigh before he answered Andy’s question.
“Mr. Peters is in a coma,” the doctor said, “It is very likely he will never recover.”
“Was it the drugs he took?”
“I believe it was the drugs and the alcohol that he took together that may have affected his heart.” Andy looked down at the floor. There was no reaction, no words, no amount of pain or grief could be said at that very moment. Scott is in a coma and he was the only person who could have told the truth of what happened to Ryan Lennyson, and now he is the only one who will remain silent.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” the doctor said. He touched Andy’s shoulder and then walked away from Andy and the two police officers. Officers Stevenson and Laprezi didn’t open their notes and clicked their pens, nor did they put their hands on their guns or handcuffs as they stared at Andy how was solid rock crumbling at the edges.
“Mr. Tanner, I think we are done with questions for tonight,” Officer Laprezi said, “Tomorrow, we will bring you in for more questioning.”
“Are you guys going to take me home?” Andy said. Officer Laprezi nodded and then placed his left hand on the walkie-talkie. He radioed in the call and the dispatch information along with a note that there was another witness to be added to the Lennyson case. Andy looked at Officer Stevenson who grabbed Andy by the shoulder and led him out of the hospital to the police car. He placed Andy in the back of the car. Andy stared through the window at the hospital. Tonight was going to be one of the most haunting nights in Andy’s life, but the worst was yet to come. Both officers walked to their seats in the car and then headed back to Andy’s neighborhood.
The pitch black highway of Interstate 75 was dimly lit by the orange bulbs of spider lights along the guardrails and roadside. Andrew and the two police officers sat in silence the whole car ride back to Andrew’s house. The only thing they could hear that made noise was the police scanner underneath the radio and the clicking keys of a keyboard. Officer Stevenson was driving the cruiser. Officer Laprezi was inputting the results into the computer. The clicking keys were enough to make Andrew feel like he was staring at a metal clock, ticking away at the hours until he would be home.
The black metallic police cruiser pulled up to the curb of Andrew’s house which stood on a dark street under a burnt out streetlight that was never repaired. There is a pile of garbage stuffing itself into a trash can that can no longer contain its contents. The sheer weight of the plastic bags caused the can to lean off the grass, making an escape for the street. The echoing lights of the ambulance showed the taupe stucco as it blinked in the night. Now the taupe stucco could not be made out in the dismal emptiness. Everything seemed a shade of black. Both officers got out of their car and then opened the back seat that was close to the grassy lawn.
Officer Laprezi shined a flashlight in Andrew’s face. The skin on his face reflected the white LED light of the flashlight. Andrew’s dark brown eyes and dark black hair stood out against his pale figure. Officer Stevenson extended his hand and Andrew took it, looking down at the burnt gray street before seeing grass under his feet. The gray concrete was enough to make Andrew feel overcome with nausea following the events that happened tonight. He stared off to the side of the house, where the window to his bedroom showed the lights were turned off. But the honeysuckle flashed its silhouette when the wind blew at the side of the tree. Andy remembers the times Ryan used to climb the honeysuckle to reach his window, and each time Ryan would say his line from Romeo and Juliet.
“It is the East and Juliet is the sun,” Ryan shouted to the sky. Andrew would leave a mocking smirk across his face and usher Ryan to come inside his bedroom.
“Stop it; people can hear you,” Andrew said, “Aren’t you worried that they might find out?”
“You and me ain’t no movie star,” Ryan sung as he put on his best Mick Jagger impression, “’Cause what we are is what we are.”
“I guess not,” Andy said. He leaned in and kissed Ryan on the lips, softly as if the feathery touch of Ryan was like the feathers inside Andrew’s pillows. They would laugh and chuckle under their soft kisses. Ryan would then reach behind him and pull out Andrew’s Alice Cooper CD. He would put it on the next to last track and the song would start to play, it was their special song that only Ryan and Andrew could waltz and lose themselves in the heat of the moment, the moment where Andrew felt all the time stop.
Andrew and Ryan were just starting to plan their whole life together as they prepared for college. Ryan wanted to major in sociology and Andrew wanted to be a psychologist. They planned on sharing an apartment together, getting some jobs on and off campus, and gaining internships in their specialized areas of study and going on infinite study abroad opportunities to enrich their knowledge. In the future they planned on adopting children after finishing their education and getting a marriage license. Ryan always wanted to treat a little girl like a princess. But it didn’t matter to Andrew if he adopted a boy or a girl, as long as he could raise it with Ryan by his side.
“Okay Andy we are here,” Officer Laprezi said, awaking Andy from his short memory of Ryan, “I guess it is my turn to walk you to your front door.” Officer Stevenson waited by the car as Officer Laprezi and Andrew walked along the sidewalk to the front door of Andrew’s house.
“We may need to call you back in someday this week,” Officer Laprezi said. Andrew nodded and then proceeded to reach for the key under the pot at the front door. Officer Laprezi stood back as Andrew inserted the key into the keyhole.
“If you need any help, just give us a call,” Officer Laprezi said. He reached inside the front pocket of his pants and pulled out his wallet. He grabbed a small white card and handed it to Andrew, who took it with consideration and stuffed it inside his back pant pocket. The light inside the house turned on and the front door was opened by a nervous mother who saw Andrew standing with the police officer.
“Andrew, thank God you’re okay,” his mother said. She swept him up in her arms and then rocked side to side with Andrew stuck in the middle of her estranged hug. Her bath robe was doused in cigarette smoke and liquor; she stayed up all night smoking and drinking, worrying about him at the hospital. Andrew pulled away as his mother began to converse with Officer Laprezi.
“Mrs. Tanner, we might need to take Andy back to the station for questioning later in the week,” Officer Laprezi said.
“I don’t understand, I thought the Peters boy was arrested,” Mrs. Tanner said.
“Scott Peters is in a coma at the hospital,” Officer Laprezi said, “He may not be able to wake up in time for us to talk to him. His mother is on her way there now.”
“But what does this have to do with Andrew?”
“Your son, Andy may provide us with some further evidence into the Lennyson case.”
“I thought Ryan Lennyson died of a drug overdose.”
“Yes he did die of an overdose on drugs, but it may be suspected that it was foul play and not an accidental death.”
“How does my son fit into the equation?”
“He was there the night Ryan Lennyson died of a possible drug overdose. But because Scott Peters is in a coma, we may be unable to find out any more information from his point of view.”
“I don’t understand, are you saying that my son has something to do with Ryan’s death?”
“Yes Mrs. Tanner that is what we are trying to say. Your son found a bottle of pills that could be the potential drug that killed the Lennyson boy last year.”
“What bottle of drugs? I don’t remember seeing any before I called 911.”
“It was a bottle full of pills. Your son took the evidence with him as he went to the hospital with Scott in the ambulance.”
“Are you saying my son was hiding evidence from the EMT’s?”
“No we are not saying your son was hiding evidence. But he may have given us the murder weapon that killed Ryan Lennyson.”
Mrs. Tanner looked at her son and then back to the police officer. She stared at him in anger; her concealed rage was boiling inside her like a pot about to spring its lid. She turned to the police officer and then politely thanked him for his service before she closed the door and promptly turned around to strike Andrew on his right cheek with the palm of her hand, leaving a bright red print on his cheek with the pinch of her wedding ring revealing a small white circle on his cheek. Andrew turned his gaze to the floor as his mother placed her hands inside her bathrobe pockets to reach for a cigarette.
“What kind of shit are you playing, Andrew?” Mrs. Tanner said.
“Nothing, mom,” Andy said.
“You hid bottles of pills from the EMT,” she said.
“I’m sorry mom. I didn’t mean to hide them.”
“What happened to you Andrew, you used to be so sweet.”
“Maybe I changed, maybe I have grown up for once like you wanted me to.”
“Don’t give me attitude young man.” Andy stared down at the floor. He couldn’t face his own mother as she searched inside her pocket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes, dads perhaps, and lit the last of the sticks in the pack. She took a long puff and then blew the smoke in Andy’s face.
“You shouldn’t hide evidence from the police,” Mrs. Tanner said.
“You’re right that I shouldn’t but I didn’t want Scott to get arrested,” Andrew said.
“Andrew, he tried to kill you tonight, let alone what else he had on his mind.”
“he wasn’t trying to kill me, he was framing me for Ryan’s death.”
“Here we go again with Ryan, when will you let it go that he was died by overdosing on that street drug. What as it called again?”
“Sleeping Beauty, and he didn’t kill himself, Scott murdered him.”
“How can you be so sure? What is it that you know about Ryan’s death that the police can’t do their job correctly?” She blew the smoke from the cigarette at Andrew’s face. The gray smoke reminded Andrew of the foggy morning at Ryan’s funeral. It was supposed to rain in the morning, but the fog hid the sunlight instead. There was a wildfire nearby as Ryan was lowered into the ground; Andrew pulled his leather jacket closer to his body to hold back his tears for his friend, his lover, his other half. As the funeral ended, the rain poured on its attendants and washed nature’s tears on the lacquered wood.
“Because I was there, I was at the party that night Ryan died.”
Mrs. Tanner stared straight through Andrew’s pale frame, the tired dark circles under his eyes, the greasy black hair that was tucked slowly behind his ears. Andrew was her boy always was and always will be, but he was much different now. Andrew was a man; he was no longer her sweet little angel. He wasn’t the same swaddle of fabric and smiles as the day she brought him home from the hospital. Andrew was a man, a man who lost something precious to him. Meanwhile, Mrs. Tanner felt like she was losing a part of herself each time he would sit at the window and stare out into the big blue sky.
“What happened to you, Andrew?” Mrs. Tanner said.
Mrs. Tanner reached for Andrew’s shoulder but he shook her off and turned away from her touch. The movement caught her off-guard. He was acting so strange and so erratic. She rubbed out the cigarette on the pack and then threw the used butt into the box.
“Nothing mom,” Andrew said, “I’m still the same; it’s just everything that happened tonight felt like it was happening to fast.”
Andy tried holding back tears; he tried holding back everything he wanted to say. But this was his mother. She was his confidant, his human diary. Andrew could always talk to his mother about problems at school or problems at home. He could open up to her and never feel guilty to asking some advice. Yet, he never told her anything about him and Ryan, from losing his virginity to even secretly dating Ryan behind everyone’s backs. She used to know him inside and out, but this attitude and this tick was getting to not just to him, but to his mom.
“Can I ask what you talked about at the hospital?” Mrs. Tanner said. She put the empty pack of cigarettes back into her bathrobe pocket and then walked over to her son. Andrew was holding his breath, holding back tears and emotions that made him raw and sick to his stomach. He wanted to cry, he wanted to break down and have his mother tell him everything was alright, but tonight it was too hard to hide anything and too hard to move on to something new. Andrew’s mother reached out and touched the top of his head. She rubbed his shoulder with her thumb and then brought him close to her body in a delicate and fragile hug. Mothers know when something changes in their kid, from their first love or their first heartbreak, but she didn’t know that Andrew changed after Ryan was gone and that change was just as big as his own little secret.
“Can I ask why you went to the party?” Mrs. Tanner said. Andrew nodded and rubbed his face deep into his mother’s robe. He reached out for the sleeves and gripped tightly to the fabric. But that was where Andrew couldn’t hold back his feelings anymore. He wept profusely. It was hard enough to tell the police what Ryan and Andy wanted to do, but it was harder for him to tell his own mother what he kept bottled up for the past year.
“Because Ryan wanted to say that we were dating,” Andrew said, “He wanted to say that we were in a relationship for the past two years.” The sobs kept coming this time, Andrew tried to hold back the loud weeping so that he wouldn’t wake his father. The secret was finally out, now it was up to his mother what to do with it.
“Oh, Andy,” she said, “Why didn’t you tell me you were dating?”
“Because you wouldn’t approve,” he said, “Because you don’t want a gay son.”
Mrs. Tanner sighed and pulled her body tighter around Andrew. He shook with each breath and left tears and snot on her robe. The same robe she wore feeding him from her breast, spitting up, sleeping snuggled up under blankets when he was sick with the flu. Andy was her son and she would love him either way. Mrs. Tanner cooed her son and pulled up his face from the fabric. She kissed his forehead gently and pushed away the hair that landed in front of his brown eyes, so big and so full of pain. If only she had known that he was dating someone, she would have done anything she could to keep him lifted in his spirits.
“You’re right that I wouldn’t approve,” Mrs. Tanner said, “But you were wrong that I would want a gay son.” She pulled Andrew back into her arms and then rubbed the small of his back.
“How come?” Andrew said.
“Because you are my son and I love you no matter what.”
“What about your job? They can fire you for having a gay kid right?”
“They can screw themselves if they try to get rid of me.”
“I don’t think you should be so bold mom, you know your boss doesn’t want anything that’s non-Christian decorating the cubicles.”
“Andrew Tanner, you are my son. That being said I always worry about you and want to know what’s on your mind all the time.”
“Thanks mom. I regret not telling you about me and Ryan in the first place.”
“It’s alright Andrew, I just wanted to help you through Ryan’s death and anything else that came out way it no matter what the costs.”
“What about dad? He was the one who gave me those bruises.”
“Your father will come around I am sure of it. We will just have to see how he reacts.”
As they cuddled by the front door, Mr. Tanner stepped out of the living room. His whiskey swished inside the glass and spilled tiny droplets of the amber liquid on the light wooden floors. Andrew and his mother looked at the man who walked behind them to the kitchen. His father gazed at the two of them hugging each other in his drunken stupor.
“What the fuck is going on here?” Mr. Tanner said.
“Andrew just came back from the hospital,” Mrs. Tanner said, “Although we did have a big argument when he got back, we hugged it all out.”
“What was the argument about?”
“Nothing too serious, just some things like Andrew was dating someone and didn’t mention it to me beforehand.”
“Who was he dating?”
“Andrew was dating Ryan, his good friend that passed away.”
“You mean that fag who died on those street drugs?”
“He wasn’t a fag, dad, he was my friend,” Andrew said. Mr. Tanner looked at his boy that time. He stared at Andrew as he swished his glass of whiskey. He put the glass to his lips and chugged the rest of the whiskey and placed the cup down on the coffee table near the entrance.
“Andrew, I’m not your real dad,” Mr. Tanner said, he crossed his arms as he prepared his next sentence, “But I want you to know that we don’t allow fags under this house.”
“Honey, Andrew just got back from the hospital and now you are kicking him out?” Mrs. Tanner said.
“That boy was found with that fag in his bed one morning; I beat the shit out of him to make sure that it didn’t happen again.” Mrs. Tanner wrapped her arms around Andrew. She was staring at her husband, a man who drank every day and couldn’t get another job after he lost his job in contracting and construction.
“Whatever you’re planning on doing, you are not kicking out our son,” Mrs. Tanner said. But Mr. Tanner wasn’t having it. He reached for Andrew and untangled him from his mother’s grasp. He pushed his son onto the stairs.
“Go to your room and start packing your shit,” Mr. Tanner said.
“Don’t hurt my son!” Mrs. Tanner said, “Andrew stays in this house whether you like it or not.”
“I want him out now!” Mr. Tanner pushed Andrew up the stairs again. He pointed a fat and wiggling finger at his son. Andrew stared at this fight between his parents like it was the first time he overhead them talking about his father.
“Do you know what would happen if your co-workers found out about this? You could lose your job!” Mr. Tanner said.
“I won’t lose my job,” Mrs. Tanner said, “I’ll see those assholes in court is they fire me. It’s called discrimination and it’s against the law.”
“Well let’s just see about that shall we?” Mr. Tanner said. Mr. Tanner looked back his son, the scraggly image of his son made him want to throw up the entire whiskey bottle he was downing in front of the television. How could his son go behind his back? He was angry and distraught. Mrs. Tanner held her hands up to her mouth, watching in fear as her son was pushed up the stairs to his bedroom, but didn’t budge.
“Andrew, I want you out of here by tonight,” Mr. Tanner said, “You better listen to me and get it done before I wake up in the morning and find you still here.”
Mr. Tanner left the room with his empty glass of whiskey headed to the kitchen. He reached inside the cabinet above the microwave and grabbed a bottle of Wild Turkey. Mr. Tanner filled the glass nearly full of whiskey and slurped the whole glass down his throat. Andrew got up from the stairs and headed towards his room, slammed the door and fell onto his bed. Mrs. Tanner stood in the entryway, crying and sobbing in silence, realizing that she might never see her own son again after tonight. Andrew got up from his bed, took a deep breath, and then went walked to his closet to grab his bag and packed a small light of clothes for the long journey ahead.